Tag Archives: Gender

Book Review: Meet Polkadot

5 Dec

We are working on building up a kid’s liberation library.

Meet Polkadot is our newest addition, and I am pretty sure it is one of my favorites.

When it comes to children’s literature, there is basically one story about gender identity. It starts with a child wants to gender bend. Their friends, family and other important adults usually do not approve. The child is sad. Then somehow things turn around and the child is allowed to be trans*, gender fluid or otherwise do something outside the confines of social acceptability.

It isn’t a bad story. It definitely coincides with what frequently happens when real life kids rebel against the gender binary. That said, it is not the only story. I worry that the lack of variety in this department might enforce the notion that gender fluidity is an abnormal thing and that children should be afraid of challenging the binary.

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The Unicorn and Meet Polkadot before our first reading.

Meet Polkadot does not tell that story. Polkadot is a nonbinary, trans* kiddo with a great support system. They have a rocking big sister named Gladiola that not only supports her sibling, but acknowledges all that she needs to learn about gender. Gladiola identifies as a cisgender girl, but still argues that the gender binary doesn’t work for her.Polkadot’s best friend is Norma Alicia, a young person of color that talks about the importance of allyship to all of her identities.

While the Unicorn loves to look at the pictures and smack the pages as I read Meet Polkadot, the book is definitely one that will probably serve us best as they start to play with their own gender expression and identities. Several pages are dedicated to explaining sex, gender and expression. There’s also a page dedicated to trans* allyship. I figure the earlier we can subvert the dominant gender narrative, the better. 

Some readers may feel the book is advanced for children, but I would argue it is one to grow with. First, they can fall into the story of Polkadot, and then they can begin to play with the underlying themes. It is a real relief to encounter books for children that do not dilute big topics like race and gender, but instead take them on in an honest manner that still feels safe.

The book has also been a great teaching tool for some of the adults in the Unicorn’s life that are still catching on to why we insist on gender neutral pronouns and refuse to gender our baby. The easy definitions help illustrate our values without being overly preachy or theoretical.

Overall, this is the trans* liberation, pro-feminist and intersectional story of gender I’ve been looking for, and I am so glad that we found it.

You can get your copy of Meet Polkadot by Talcott Broadhead at Danger Dot Press.

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So many questions

20 Oct

I get a lot of questions about the Unicorn and my approach to gender diverse parenting. Here are some of the most frequently asked ones (nasty hateful ones aside) and a general idea of my answers.

What do you put on forms?

With a seven week old baby, there are not a ton of forms. So far, I have left this category blank any time I’ve had to pick.

What if she wants a doll/he wants a football?

I answer this question assuming the person does not know of my hatred of sports and my socio-political critiques of dolls, and is instead referencing the commonly held belief that dolls and sporting equipment are inherently gendered items.  I strongly disagree. I believe (as do many other far more articulate people) that society constructs social norms that attach gender to objects, and then enforces these norms.

The process looks something like this: Someone has a child, and that child is raised male. They are surrounded with blue, sports, cars, tools, and other things we randomly deem to be masculine. When that child is 2, people say, “My son just gravitated to sports, cars, and tools,” and then will go on to say, “My child is such a boy,” and will only be surrounded in masculine things.

Are male identified people the only ones to play sports, drive cars, or use tools? No. Also, did anyone give that child an equal opportunity to access tea sets, dolls, and dress up clothing without it being a grand hoorah? Probably not. I could use pretty much any bogus gender stereotype and extend it to justify why anyone would do the things they do. The reality is, we entertain ourselves with the things we find near us that bring us joy (and that our loved ones encourage us to enjoy with them). If that says something about our gender, then our food preference says something about our Nationality.

What if your kid ends up being a girly girl or big jock?

The point of all of this is not for the Unicorn to live their life without gender expression. We are trying to remove some of the coercion that takes place when all children are assumed to be heterosexual and fit into the gender binary from birth on unless proven otherwise. I hear a lot of very well intentioned people say, “I’d be okay if my kid was gay.” The unspoken half of that sentence is “but I would rather them be straight.”

Our family is growing around the concept that identities are dynamic, and will all be celebrated. We are kicking out the obligations to try living the norm first. A friend of mine recently said, “You are trying to build your house without closets. That way everyone’s already out.” I like that.

Aren’t you worried they will be bullied?

I was bullied so bad in school I still sweat and shake when I walk into a school. I am equally afraid that my child will be bullied or bully others. However, I’ve tried to make an agreement with the Unicorn that I won’t parent from a place of fear. Instead, we are learning about empathy, social justice, privilege, alienation, communication, and so many other piece of that complex puzzle every day. I hope that maybe these things can help. Telling kids to stop being targets of bullies is adult bullying, and it only strengthens the problem. I do not have a ton of solutions, but I know that isn’t it.

But what about their sex… You know, male/female?

The concept of “sex vs. gender” is hopefully on its way out, as “sex” is a creation of the medical and scientific industries (who have long marginalized and pathologized trans* and queer people). “Sex” is one way that body/gender hierarchy is created and community is divided. Dean Spade wrote this piece about the way we unnecessarily assign gender to body parts. I strongly recommend it to anyone interested in further explanation.

Is this a new parenting fad, like Attachment Parenting?

No, but if someone writes a book about it and finds a celebrity promoter, then it probably will be.

There are many cultures that have identified and celebrated multiple genders as a part of their traditions for thousands of years (see Muxes and Two Spirited) peoples as two of many examples) and there is absolutely no way anyone can take credit for this or call it new. We have simply been told that a non-binary approach to gender or sexuality will make children “strange” (much like cosleeping, cloth diapers, and baby wearing) thanks to colonialism, capitalism, racism, sexism, heterosexism, transphobia, and many other labels for oppressive norms.